Boris Johnson will on Tuesday announce a 10pm closing time for pubs and restaurants across England, as the UK prime minister begins to reinstate national lockdown measures to contain a second wave of coronavirus.
He hopes the new restrictions on the country’s social life will help to control Covid-19 while keeping businesses and schools open. But he said: “Nobody underestimates the challenges the new measures will pose to many individuals and businesses.”
Mr Johnson, who will set out the new restrictions in an 8pm televised address to the country, is under pressure from Rishi Sunak, chancellor, and some Tory MPs to hold back from draconian new lockdown measures.
But the rapid spread of the virus is forcing him to introduce new restrictions more quickly than he expected after Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical adviser, on Monday warned of “a very challenging winter”.
The latest restrictions will cause serious disruption to the hospitality sector. From Thursday all venues must close by 10pm and will be allowed to offer table service only.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, warned that a 10pm curfew could “halve” revenues at some venues — a level at which many businesses would struggle to survive.
Simon Emeny, chief executive of the pub group Fuller’s, said: “It is only the loss of one or two trading hours but it will significantly undermine consumer confidence at a time when government should be reassuring consumers that pubs are one of the most heavily regulated places to socialise in.”
Markets around the world shivered at the prospect of a winter of Covid-19 disruption, with Germany’s Dax index dropping 4 per cent and London’s FTSE 100 falling more than 3 per cent.
Travel and leisure stocks were particularly hard hit in the sell-off with operators bracing for restrictions stretching into the winter. British Airways owner IAG fell 12 per cent.
Spain’s government said it was ready to step up curbs to control the pandemic in Madrid even as new restrictions on movements for reasons other than work or education came into force for 850,000 people in several southern districts of the capital.
In London the UK government’s Joint Biosecurity Centre lifted the coronavirus threat level from three — meaning the epidemic is in general circulation — to four, where it is in general circulation and transmission is high or rising exponentially.
“This country now faces a tipping point in its response and it is vital everybody plays their part now to stop the spread of the virus and protect lives,” Matt Hancock, health secretary, said.
The prime minister on Monday held talks with ministers and the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as he prepared to announce on Tuesday measures to address what he called a Covid-19 “second wave”.
London mayor Sadiq Khan has discussed changing official advice to persuade people to work from home where possible, reversing recent government efforts to coax people back into their offices.
Mr Johnson will set out his new approach on Tuesday after cabinet and a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee, but he is determined to avoid a return to the drastic lockdown of the spring when schools and many businesses were closed.
The focus for now is mainly on limiting social interactions. Mr Sunak opposed the wholesale closure of pubs and other hospitality venues, although ministers are holding that option in reserve.
On Monday Mr Johnson’s chief Covid-19 advisers, Prof Whitty and Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, warned that the virus could “run out of control” unless decisive action was taken.
Sir Patrick said that the number of new daily cases could rise from 3,105 on September 15 to 49,000 by October 13, if the disease continued to double every seven days, as was currently happening.
Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster said people would be banned from mixing with other households inside. Meanwhile the Welsh government announced tighter restrictions on a further 300,000 people after a “worrying and rapid rise” in coronavirus cases.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, said her government would “almost certainly” announce new restrictions in the next couple of days.
“Hopefully this will be with four-nations alignment, but if necessary it will have to happen without that,” she told a daily briefing.
Since the beginning of September, the number of positive coronavirus cases within the UK has surged, with 3,899 cases reported on Sunday, bringing the country’s total caseload to 394,257.
Additional reporting by Mure Dickie and Jim Pickard
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